NO PART OF THE FOLLOWING
ARTICLE AND PHOTOGRAPHS
MAY BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT
PERMISSION FROM THE AUTHOR ©
Toronto businessman, Peter Patterson owned an estate in present-day western Scarborough named Blantyre. Picnickers often had outings on an area referred to as "Yellowbanks" because of the sand-coloured bluffs which overlooked Lake Ontario. In 1878 Patterson granted a 10-year lease to several business investors who in turn hired John Boyle to manage what would become Victoria Park. Buildings were erected, paths were made, and landscaping done for the June 1st, 1878 opening.
A wharf was built for ferry service which had an elevated walkway leading up the bluff to the park proper. This was serviced by two ferry boats from The Davies Steamship Line which unloaded happy picnickers for a day of relaxation. As well, staircases led down both sides of the walkway to the beach which featured swimming and boat rentals. Further down the beach was a zig-zag stairway that led up to the top of the bluff to another part of the park, which was also accessible from up top. Further up the beach near the canoe dock were paths cut out of the hill side leading up a restaurant. This may have been the ravine known as "Lover's Walk".
The upper part of the 6-hectare park consisted of picnic shelters, a dance pavilion, the restaurant, and other buildings. There was an observation tower that overlooked the entire park area and the waterfront. One representation appears to show swings, as well.
Two years before the lease expired (1886), Brewer Thomas Davies bought the park from the Patterson estate. (Peter Patterson had died in 1883.) Davies must have extended the lease, because in 1894 the park had street car lines extended to the area, which proved popular enough that the ferry service was discontinued in July of 1895. Interestingly, in 1895 the park rented 13 streetcars and offered them as sleeping quarters for those wishing to stay overnight. It's not mentioned how the cars were outfitted for this purpose.
Also during the 1890s were added an oval track, donkey and bicycle rides along trails, games, steam-driven carousels, swings, a zoo, shooting gallery, and the remains of the "Zebra" which had been wrecked on the park's beach in 1897.
Presentations included balloon ascensions, band concerts, and tightrope walking - one of which featured the great Harry Leslie, who had crossed Niagara Falls. Sports exhibitions such as cricket, quoits (a ring-toss type of game), and track & field races were popular with the patrons who were allowed to place bets.
By 1899, owner Davies wanted to close the park so he might develop it as a residential area. However, The Toronto Railway Company stepped in the following year and secured a lease. They would operate it under the same management as Munro Park, a short distance away. The rail company decided to remove all camping and rail-car accommodations and to make the area strictly a quiet day picnic park. Night activities, such as dancing were eliminated and strict police supervision implemented.
Davies offered the park for sale over the next six seasons as he was unable to pay the mortgage. It was finally bought by Henry Eckardt in June of 1906 for $29,500 in a foreclosure sale. The park closed that season but Eckardt offered part of the area starting in 1912 for use as a "forest school". At the time it was believed that school children would derive health benefits from being taught out doors.
Victoria Park Forrest School ran from June to September six days a week. It was staffed by teacher, nurse, and supplies officer. From the initial enrolment of 70, the school reached 220 students by 1930 and a staff of 7 teachers. The school term was six months by then, from May through October. During bad weather, classes were taught indoors, although no mention is made as to which building was used. The school moved elsewhere on Eckardt's property in September 1932 when a new waterworks began construction.
Also during this period, The Eaton Company ran a boy's camp from 1917 through 1927 which used the parks sports and hiking/camping facilities.
As well, on Friday nights, outsiders were invited to dance at the old pavilion with the boy's club members. This camp stopped in 1927 when The City of Toronto bought the park for $370,000 with plans for a waterworks which began 5 years later. One may now travel down Blantyre Avenue to The Roland Caldwell Harris Filtration Plant (1932) which occupies the site today.
Return to the
Closed Canadian Parks Index